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Simple, Cost Effective Treatments Can Save Many Childrens' Lives

A new study indicates that simple, cost-effective measures could greatly improve the health of children in developing countries. The findings appear in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal.

In countries where many young children succumb to disease every year, simply fortifying food with zinc and Vitamin A would greatly boost a child’s chances of survival. That’s the finding of a group of researchers studying the cost effectiveness of strategies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

The coordinator of that group is Dr. Tessa Tan-Torres Edejer of the World Health Organization.

“Numerous studies have shown that micronutrient deficiencies like Vitamin A deficiency or zinc deficiency {are} a risk factor for acquiring infections like diarrhea, pneumonia, measles, even malaria. So, in other words, if you have Vitamin A or zinc deficiency, you are more likely to get these infections compared to another child who doesn’t have these deficiencies,” she says.

Not only is a child at greater risk of getting those diseases, but the child is also at greater risk of dying from them.

Dr. Tan-Torres Edejer also says another way to greatly improve the health of children in developing countries is to immunize them against measles. It’s not that other diseases are unimportant. It’s just that if a country can maintain regular measles immunizations, it’s a sign it has a good health infrastructure. And that means better overall health care.

The WHO official says if these simple and inexpensive strategies were implemented in developing countries, long-range health prospects for children would be much brighter.

“I think we would come very, very close to reaching the Millennium Development Goals, particularly the one on child health,” she says.

That goal calls for a two-thirds reduction in death rates for children under five by 2015. Dr. Tan-Torres Edejer says the strategy should be accompanied by boosting efforts to improve neo-natal and maternal health care.